The Imaginary Garden
written by Andrew Larsen
illustrated by Irene Luxbacher
published by Kids Can Press, 2009
ages 3 - 7
Theodora loved her grandfather's old garden. His new apartment's balcony is too windy and small for a garden. But what appears to be a drawback soon leads to a shared burst of creativity as Theo and her Poppa decide to paint a new garden. As they work side by side — sowing seeds with brushes and paint — a masterpiece begins to take shape that transforms the balcony into an abundant garden.
When Poppa goes away on holiday, Theo helps nurture the garden and it begins to take on a life of its own. This garden grows not from soil but from love, imagination and creativity.
Readers will marvel at each stage of this fertile garden as it grows from seed to full flower, revealing the power of art to enrich our lives.
My Thoughts as a Writer:One of the reasons why this book is successful is because of the concept of creating an imaginary garden by painting on canvas. It definitely hooked me. I liked the way the author shows how Theo gradually becomes more independent in the process and takes on the job after her Poppa goes away on a trip.
The illustrations and their layout was integrated with the text, so you could really see how important the illustrations are to the story, from the tiny illustrations to show the steps for painting a bird or flower to the full page illustrations of the garden mural that brought the fantasy element to life.
My Thoughts as a Teacher:
This would be a good book to use in introducing spring painting activities (e.g., mural painting) as well as talking about signs of spring. It would also be helpful for reinforcing procedural writing, since the text explains how to paint birds and flowers.
It’s great to see the closeness between Theo and her grandfather, and Theo’s gradually developing independence with the project. It’d be a good addition to a classroom or school library. This book is recommended for ages 3 to 7, but at around 700 words, I think the text might be a bit long for kids at the younger end of this range (and might need two sessions).